Soldier Celebrates Getting His Afghan Translator Asylum: 'I Just Started Crying'

·3 min read
Spencer Sullivan and Abdulhaq Sodais
Spencer Sullivan and Abdulhaq Sodais

Peter Dejong/AP/Shutterstock Spencer Sullivan and Abdulhaq Sodais

An American soldier is finally breathing a sigh of relief after learning that his longtime translator has been granted asylum in Germany after fleeing Afghanistan.

Army veteran Spencer Sullivan told the Associated Press he has spent the past several years advocating on behalf of Abdulhaq Sodais, who translated for Sullivan's platoon while they were deployed to Afghanistan.

Sodais — who fled to Germany via smugglers after being repeatedly denied a U.S. visa — learned Wednesday that he would be granted asylum and immediately let his old friend know.

Upon hearing the news, Sullivan told the AP: "I just started crying."

Spencer Sullivan and Abdulhaq Sodais
Spencer Sullivan and Abdulhaq Sodais

Peter Dejong/AP/Shutterstock Spencer Sullivan and Abdulhaq Sodais

For Sullivan, the issue is deeply personal — both because of the close bond he has with Sodais, and because of his history with interpreters.

His former platoon's other interpreter, Sayed Masoud, was waiting for a U.S. visa when he was killed by the Taliban in 2017.

Determined not to let that happen to Sodais, Sullivan began working months ago to help his former translator escape Afghanistan — writing letters of recommendation and obtaining records from the U.S. to help him in his quest for asylum.

"I made a promise to him just as America made a promise to him to protect him and save his life," Sullivan told the AP. "I mean, how can you turn your back on that promise? I don't think the answer is more complicated than that. I think it's actually very simple."

RELATED: Inside the Network of U.S. Vets and Operatives Helping Save People in Afghanistan: 'In No Way Is This Over'

The AP reports that Sodais initially applied for a U.S. visa in 2013. After the application was denied, he appealed the ruling four times. Then his case grew more dire. As someone who had worked with American military personnel, he faced harsh consequences if confronted by members of the Taliban.

Eventually, both his uncle and a neighbor (who had also worked for the military) were killed by the Taliban, the outlet reports.

Sodais used smugglers to help him get out, the outlet reports, traveling for seven months and being beaten and jailed before arriving in Germany. His first asylum request in Germany was denied but on Wednesday, Sodais got news that it had been granted — and he will be able to apply for German citizenship in three years.

As Sodais told the AP: "I'm feeling right now that I will have an amazing future."

Spencer Sullivan and Abdulhaq Sodais
Spencer Sullivan and Abdulhaq Sodais

Peter Dejong/AP/Shutterstock

Sullivan is one of many American veterans who have been working behind-the-scenes to get their former translators out of Afghanistan, where the Taliban rapidly took over as the U.S. began its military exit in August.

A major effort to evacuate more than 200 Afghan interpreters, who face persecution by the Taliban in Afghanistan for working alongside Americans, commenced in late July.

By August, the situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated, as the Taliban took Kabul and scenes of chaos and panic set in the airport.

The situation calmed somewhat, though questions lingered about who would be eligible to leave the country.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, announced the U.S. withdrawal had completed during a last-minute press briefing held Aug. 30.

While critics denounced President Joe Biden's handling of the exit, he said it was time to finish a "forever war" that had already cost too much.

As for the Afghans who still wish to escape their country and the Taliban, Gen. McKenzie has said that the solution would be a diplomatic and not a military one.

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